News 2008


Annan's team strikes half-way deal in talks

Story by NATION Team

15. 02. 2008

The agreement reached after two days of talks to end Kenya’s post election political crisis will be revealed Friday.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will make the negotiation details public at a news conference at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi.

Representatives of the Government and ODM flew back to Nairobi Thursday afternoon but declined to discuss the outcome of their talks at Kilaguni Serena Lodge in the Tsavo National Park. The discussions will resume in Nairobi on Monday.

Kenyans are pinning their hopes on this latest round of talks for an end to the polls stalemate which erupted into violence killing more than 1,000 people and displacing 350,000 others.

What was agreed

A statement issued by Mr Annan’s spokesman Thursday said: “Mr Annan will return to Nairobi tomorrow, Friday 15th February. He will speak to the Press at 5 pm at the Serena Hotel to outline what was agreed in 48 hours of discussions in a location outside of the capital.” The statement added: “Mr Annan will make available the text of the Agreement signed today by both parties.”

It emerged that both sides are agreed on the need to have some accommodation of ODM MPs in the government, but differ on details and terminologies.

In the discussions, it is understood that the government side argued that the terminology “power-sharing” should be excluded from any pact.

It was also understood that the government side argued for a non-executive prime minister to serve at the pleasure of the President.

They also want the President to decide who from ODM should join the Cabinet, comprehensive constitutional review within a year, and for President Kibaki to serve the full five year term.

ODM participants, on the other hand, were understood to have proposed that the roles of the President as Head of State, be separated from those of Head of Government. This would mean either that the position of prime minister be created to serve as Head of Government or a new office such as Chief Minister.

They were also understood to have argued for a two-year transition period for fresh Presidential elections to be held

In other developments, US President George W. Bush, who heads to Africa this week, said he had asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to go to Kenya with a message to the leaders that there must be a full return to democracy.

End the crisis

“In Kenya we’re backing the efforts of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to end the crisis,” President Bush said in a speech on Africa.

“And when we’re on the continent I’ve asked Condi Rice ... to travel to Kenya to support the work of the former secretary general and to deliver a message directly to Kenya’s leaders and people: there must be an immediate halt to violence, there must be justice for the victims of abuse and there must be a full return to democracy,” he said.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga accuses Kibaki’s team of rigging the vote, while Kibaki says he won fairly.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband repeated statements by British government officials that they do not recognise the current Kenyan government as representing the democratic will of the Kenyan people.

“We share the urgent desire of Kenyans and our international partners for all Kenya’s leaders to show the flexibility to turn this post-election crisis into an opportunity, and establish the basis - through Kofi Annan’s mediation - for a lasting solution,” he said in a statement.

No agreement

But Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua said no agreement had been reached.

Speaking on arrival at Wilson Airport, Ms Karua asked foreign diplomats to stop giving their views on the mediation talks since Kenya was a sovereign state.

“It is unfortunate to note that some diplomats are abusing Kenya’s hospitality by giving their unsolicited views on the mediation talks...

“I would like to remind them we are not a colony... I urge them to refrain from such behaviour and adhere to the diplomatic convention of not interfering with sovereign states,” said Ms Karua.

On the Kilaguni talks she said: ‘‘Optimism is not the same thing as reality. We have not reached any agreement but we are progressing well.’’

The Kenya Air Force plane carrying the ODM and PNU mediation teams touched down at the airport at exactly 5.42pm.

First to disembark from the plane was ODM Pentagon member Musalia Mudavadi who was followed by colleague William Ruto, Aldai MP Sally Kosgey, Ms Karua, Foreign Affairs minister Moses Wetangula, MP Mutula Kilonzo and James Orengo among others.

Sources familiar with the talks said the agreement signed involves details of discussions between the two sides up to the time of adjournment Thursday.

The sources said that both Government and ODM needed to get fresh brief from their principals, President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga. Mr Odinga was said to have gone into a meeting with Mr Mudavadi at a Nairobi hotel later in the evening to get a briefing on the talks.

There were high hopes and anxiety Thursday as Kenyans and international community waited for the outcome of the mediation talks to end political crisis in the country.

Mr Annan’s Panel of Eminent Persons, the ODM and Government negotiators moved to Kilaguni lodge on Tuesday to avoid publicity and have better environment for conclusion of discussions for short-term solutions to end the crisis.

The former UN boss, who was appointed by the African Union to spearhead the negotiations, had set Thursday evening as deadline to arrive at solutions.

The ODM and government sides had promised to arrive at short-term solutions to help restore peace and stability in the country within seven to 15 days from January 29 when the talks started. Long-term solutions are to be agreed upon within a year. A source close to the negotiators said they were Thursday evening working round the clock to beat the deadline before making a formal announcement on outcome either Friday or Saturday in Nairobi.

Before flying to Kilaguni Serena Lodge to fine tune the deal, Mr Annan hinted that coalition governments had worked elsewhere as a way out of political crisis

His proposal of a possible grand coalition attracted an outcry from PNU with Ms Karua saying the matter had not been discussed at the talks and misrepresented her party’s position.

Mr Annan later clarified that his statement was only a proposal for further discussion.

Both ODM and PNU have tabled proposals for a power-sharing agreement at the talks. The government side is however said to be against fresh elections but ODM says this was the only way to ensure justice to Kenyans.

Ms Karua is leading government team of negotiators who include Mr Wetangula, Education minister Sam Ongeri and Mbooni’s Kilonzo. The ODM side is led by Mr Mudavadi, backed by Eldoret North MP William Ruto, Orengo (Ugenya) and Dr Kosgei (Aldai).

Others in Mr Annan’s panel are former South African President Nelson Mandela’s wife Graca Machel and former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa.

Mr Annan has led the politicians in listing four key issues to end the current crisis and prevent future one.

The issues include an end to violence, ensuring human rights and security of all Kenyans, resettlement of displaced people and giving them humanitarian assistance. The other issue is how to address political crisis resulting from disputed presidential election results.

Legal reforms

The long-term issues include constitution review, land and legal reforms.

The European Union, United Nations and a number of countries have since warned those bent on scuttling the talks of dire conseqences saying they would not allow Kenya to collapse.

Nearly 600,000 people have fled their homes especially in Rift Valley, Central, Western, Nairobi and Nyanza provinces.

Mr Annan is understood to have made it clear that while the international community was playing its role in urging for a quick political solution, the real players in the political game shouldered the responsibility of ending the conflict.